The Truth Behind Our Tears

Illustration by Mackenzie Smith

Molly Kennedy, Sports Editor

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Think of the last time you cried. Whether it was laughing so hard you were brought to tears or an intense sad sob, crying is a part of life. Tears, although mostly water, also contain salt, fatty acids, and about 1,500 other proteins.

Crying is used to express a wide range of intense emotions such as sadness, happiness, and anger. Emotional tears are proven to contain a higher level of stress hormones. Involuntary tears, also known as basal tears are used to lubricate the cornea and protect them from debris.  

From a young age, humans cry to have their most basic needs fulfilled, and people typically grow up crying less as they get older. As humans gain independence and a sense of reality, they develop better regulation of their emotions. Tear production also typically declines with age.

Statistics show that males typically cry less than women. According to the American Psychological Association, there are many reasons for this. Testosterone may prevent crying and the hormone prolactin which is higher in women may promote crying. Based on cultural conditioning, some men believe showing emotions is feminine and learning to suppress their emotions is masculine. According to Psychology Today, men and women cry the same amount until about age 12, yet by age 18, women cry four times more than men on average. Some women tend to cry more frequently over small things such as books or movies. “I cried when Ellie died in Up,” said senior Maya Zadie. This does not make it uncommon for males to cry over movies and books, it just happens more frequently amongst women. “I cried when Iron Man died,” said an anonymous junior male. 

People can also cry over extreme moments of happiness or passion. Some athletes are brought to tears after winning a championship game, or fans are brought to tears after their favorite team wins. NBA player Lebron James cried tears of joy after his team the Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in the 7th game of the NBA finals in 2016. There are many places deemed socially acceptable to cry at such as weddings, graduations, funerals; however, unlike sad tears, men are found to cry tears of joy just as much as women.

Society does not embrace crying among adults, especially in most public areas. Many people have a fear of crying in a workplace, school, or public environment because it’s seen as embarrassing and people experience feelings of shame for doing so.  If you feel tears coming on in a public space that you feel is an unacceptable environment or an uncomfortable space make sure to take a breath and control your breathing. “Crying in public can make you look or feel weak, or like an attention seeker,” said senior Grace Schelb. Crying can also be very manipulative and can be used to persuade others or to avoid criticism.

The amount you cry may be influenced by the country and culture you grew up in.  Children who are raised in environments where crying is reprimanded or do not receive emotional support, can grow up suppressing their emotions or not thinking they are valid.

Animals have the ability to cry in order to lubricate their eyes when they’re eyes get dry. Humans are the only animals who have the ability to cry emotional tears, it is part of what makes us human.